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SATRAN - Satellite Tracking Antenna

Wifi-controlled, azimuth/elevation antenna rotator.

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A compact satellite az/el antenna rotator with android and PC control. Soon I will launch the MK3 which is a more affordable unit that you can 3D-print at home, so stay tuned!

Find out more at www.satran.io

A simple satellite antenna rotator with an android app that calculates the position of any satellite using its "kepler elements", and sends the relative direction to the Az-El antenna rotator to track the satellite across the sky. 

Controller

The onboard microprocessor is an ESP8266 NodeMCU board with wifi-capability that can be controlled manually in a web-interface, with the free android app available from Google Play or with a PC running Gpredict or other software capable of sending rotctl-commands over a network.  

/  Daniel SM7YSA

  • Aluminum accessories

    Daniel Nikolajsen09/08/2022 at 16:17 0 comments

    The new design is finally finished and already sold out. More components are on its way so hopefully I can offer more stock in a few weeks. The new model can be 3D-printed and is mostly plastic, but I have a few metal accessories also in the shop that needs manufacturing. Like these antenna fasteners in cast aluminum. It's a lot of work to cast, cut, grind and drill. But it's well worth it to please my customers. 

  • Rewinding the tape with MK3

    Daniel Nikolajsen08/16/2022 at 08:24 0 comments

    It's official. Today I decided to move forward with Satran MK3, which is an easier and more open-source adaptation of the current MK2.

    The electronics and motors will be the same as for the MK2, so it will be possible to build an MK3 from your old MK2 parts if you want to.

    The current MK2 version was designed to be made completely out of cast alloy, which has shown to be extremely time-consuming and is not something my customers can make themselves. The current design takes almost 20 hours per unit for me to make, which is not something I can charge enough for. Hence, the new version will be designed so you can 3D-print the parts at home if you want instead of buying them. The new Satran will only be sold as parts or DIY kits, which mean I have time to make lots more of them and you as a customer will get a lower price and a few hours of fun assembling.

    A more open-source design will also give more room to create your own upgrades or make your own spare parts with a standard 3D-printer at home if needed. Also the community can more easily help in inventing upgrades, improvements or software features.

    Time for me to work around the clock, I hope to have the adjusted design ready in a week or two.

  • A tedious task

    Daniel Nikolajsen06/15/2022 at 07:38 0 comments

    Production is taking me a lot of time. Especially the aluminum parts that I make from scratch, and then cut, drill, grind, sand-blast and paint. Its entertaining but extremely time consuming. 

    The new electric furnace has almost doubled my productivity but it still takes maaany hours to make a single unit. I will probably need to clock all the different tasks in the next batch, so I can see where the bottlenecks are. But most importantly, the quality is getting better and better as I learn more about the process and produce better original patterns like the one below. Its a sheet of MDF with a 3D-printed pattern, coated with spray filler and epoxy paint. One part takes two of these, one positive and one negative. That means I have a total of 10 different molds, almost every one I have needed to redesign at least once. So only creating the patterns has taken me over a month of hard work and several hundred dollars.

    The dream would be to just hire a firm to make die-cast parts instead of my sand-cast ones. But the setup fees for making the molds are insane and I'm not interested in taking an investor since its such a niche product and I have no idea how long I can be doing this. But hopefully I can make a few hundred units before I run out of juice.

    Whats most important is that the quality has gotten significantly better since the very first prototype almost 2 years ago, and I have a few improvements left but mostly regarding the software and the app. Hopefully all of you - my customers - enjoy the enormous effort I put into making them. It's far from mass-produced.

  • Furnace MK2

    Daniel Nikolajsen06/05/2022 at 07:52 0 comments

    Well, if at first you don't succeed....

    The electric furnace that I built worked for some time, at least a few full days of foundry work. But the chamotte fire bricks took way too long to warm up, around 3 hours from turning it on until the aluminum was ready for pouring. 

    So I decided to replace the fire bricks with a more advanced insulating brick, which I got to test yesterday. And it made a huge difference! The furnace reached the correct temperature in only 20 minutes, and in an extra 15-20mins the aluminum is ready. 

    Also when I disassembled the furnace, I found that all the metal wire and parts that I had used to fasten the bricks and the kanthal-wire had gotten so oxidized that they just fell apart into powder. So now I replaced the cable joints with stainless ones, that hopefully will last a bit longer. Also the brick itself is insulating the furnace so the heat wont transfer out as much.

    Now hopefully I can finish the last parts for the current batch of Satrans. Wohoo!

  • Up and running again

    Daniel Nikolajsen05/10/2022 at 07:38 0 comments

    Finally Im getting somewhere with the first proper production run. After the initial zero series I had a few weeks downtime when building the electric furnace and better matchplates for the casting process, but now its all hands on deck to get a new batch ready in a week or two. 

    Casting, drilling, grinding, blasting, painting. So much work, but way more fun than spending my time in an office...

  • The heat is on

    Daniel Nikolajsen05/05/2022 at 20:05 0 comments

    Finally the furnace is working, reaching up to 800 celcius which is enough for melting aluminum. But I wish I used another kind of fire brick, because the chamotte-stones take a lot of energy to warm up. But I can replace them later. Now its time to produce some more Satrans... wohoo!

  • Try, try again

    Daniel Nikolajsen05/04/2022 at 09:57 0 comments

    The first trial run of the electric smelting furnace did not work quite as I had hoped. After about an hour the heating element gave up. Apparently the connection between the kanthal-wire and the cable couldnt take the extreme heat.

    This time I twisted the end of the kanthal resistance wire into sort of a "litz wire", and connected the heat-resistant cable with bolts and spacers. Hopefully this will prevent most of the heat to travel from the kanthal to the cable. 

  • I'm electric

    Daniel Nikolajsen04/27/2022 at 05:10 0 comments

    Its not only a song by a local band called Melody Club, but "I'm electric" also states that the amazing and time-saving electric foundry is getting closer to completion.

    I asked a good friend of mine to help me out in building a 2.1kW electric furnace instead of my currently horrendous wood-fired forge. Its a relatively easy setup but looks almost professional thanks to my friends excellent work.

    The inside has a ceramic blanket surrounding a pile of chamotte-stones and a 12 meter long kanthal-wire turned into a spiral to give a nice 25ohm resistance, which in theory should give us 2100watt. Slightly below what my 10A outlets can handle. The bottom of the furnace is an old circular pizza oven stone that fit nicely inside the big steel bin.

    I was up until late yesterday connecting all the wires, but for some reason the PID temperature controller didnt want to run on 12volt which the manual stated it would, so today I'll try 230vac instead and hope for better luck...

  • Cope and drag

    Daniel Nikolajsen04/12/2022 at 09:36 0 comments

    The first batch of Satrans are on their way to the very first customers and I am working hard to speed up production so even more can enjoy the tech. 

    Sand casting has proven the greatest challenge which takes up a lot of production time. My first 3D-printed original patterns worked but were time-consuming and didnt last more than 10-20 uses. So this time I am trying something new - "cope and drag patterns". 

    This is a two-part original made out of MDF-board, 3D-printed parts, glue, spray filler and a few coats of heat-tolerant epoxy paint on top. When you cast a lot the petrobond sand will get quite hot and can damage the patterns, so epoxy should give some extra protection. If they hold up for 50 uses or more I would be happy, otherwise I need to step up the game even further with fiberglass-patterns. 

  • Finalizing the first batch

    Daniel Nikolajsen03/27/2022 at 08:28 2 comments

    Finally Im getting close to finishing the first batch of Satrans. Hopefully I can sell the first ones in the week to come. 

    The new default paint job is grey like this prototype. But I will make them in other colors later, like black or olive green for those hiding out in the bush instead of mounting it on their rooftop, or just wants that extra "cool factor". 

    The rubber gasket on the side is for those who wants the antenna coax cable to run inside the mount pipe instead of hanging loose on the outside. Neat and tidy, just like IKEA.

    Visit www.satran.io and signup for the newsletter to make sure you get notified as soon as they hit the shelves. 

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Discussions

ahsima1 wrote 02/26/2021 at 18:06 point

Hi!

The STL files for the "Top plate" and "Turret base" seem to be different from the pictures. Looks like they lack the groves for ball bearings. Can you confirm those are indeed the right files, or if they aren't, upload the right files.
Thanks!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Nikolajsen wrote 02/28/2021 at 09:22 point

They are the right ones. the BOM was an old one but is updated now. The continuous ball bearing grooves didnt work, the balls stacked up against each other and made too much friction. In the current version there are only 8 balls on each layer, evenly spaced.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Mihai S wrote 02/12/2021 at 19:25 point

HI, for the past 3 weeks I've been printing like crazy different rotors projects, I like your project but where is the firmware? github?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Nikolajsen wrote 02/12/2021 at 20:15 point

Shop will open in approx a week where you can buy control board with firmware preinstalled (EU customers only, exports will begin in about a month)

  Are you sure? yes | no

k.jurczok wrote 02/05/2021 at 09:15 point

good luck with adversity. I believe that the failure will be managed quickly :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

k.jurczok wrote 02/01/2021 at 09:57 point

Hi!

What is maximum load of this rotor?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Nikolajsen wrote 02/17/2021 at 06:43 point

It's built for smaller antennas, the exact weight limit is still to be tested.

  Are you sure? yes | no

jed wrote 01/27/2021 at 15:47 point

Perhaps you understand this, but your 10 ohm steppers take a higher voltage to get to 1A. The A4988 driver carriers that look like what you are using are good for up to 35V and more voltage equates to quicker ramp time to the correct current. Your 9V is near the 8V MINIMUM for these drivers. Also, remember you can only measure stepper current when they are HOLDING and not turning. If you'd rather use 10 ohm steppers, try 24V.

What a great project! Best of luck!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Nikolajsen wrote 01/27/2021 at 16:07 point

Exactly I didnt realise first that it was 10ohm motors I had. Since the entire board needs to run on a single power supply it needs to be at 8-10 volt because of the NodeMCU and A4988. Otherwise the controller board needs to be redesigned with extra voltage control, and because of the cramped space in the housing the entire hardware probably would need to be redesigned too. Thx!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Thomas Daniels wrote 01/18/2021 at 16:38 point

Hi, this looks very interesting and affordable. I have a few questions: Will this rotator be strong enough to carry a 2m and a 70 cm XYagi, each about 1,5m long? Is it watertight enough for permanent assembly outside? Can it be controlled by connecting to an IP-address using any browser? (I do not have any androids here). And how much will it be? If I understand correctly, you are still in the development process?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Nikolajsen wrote 01/22/2021 at 06:17 point

Hi, a double antenna system with such large arrays I think should be too much for this design unfortunately. Also it is not completely weathertight and durable enough to withstand hard wind, so not recommended for prolonged outdoor use.

 But if I get enough response I hope to make a better version (but more expensive) later on made from aluminium, stronger motors etc. The first version thats still in development is made to be a cheap and simple, costing from around 60USD for only the controller board up to perhaps up to 230 USD for a full kit. The first will probably be available for sale early february. 

It can be controlled via IP/browser but since the positioning (calculating the direction) is done in the app, you need some other software to know where to point the rotator. Perhaps Gpredict (win) and others could work.

  Are you sure? yes | no

jcwren wrote 01/18/2021 at 00:15 point

It's an interesting rotator design and is nice and compact. My concern is the amount of load you're putting on the gear train as the antenna changes azimuth. If the antenna is balanced and the antenna is pointing at the horizon, there's no stress. But as the azimuth increases, the load dramatically increases as it's not balanced on the pivot point as it is with a conventional antenna rotator. When the azimuth is 90 degrees, the gear train is supporting the full weight of the antenna and it's increased because it's cantilevered. What are your thoughts about that?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Nikolajsen wrote 01/18/2021 at 05:39 point

That's correct, it's not perfectly balanced. But the design isn't made for use with any large 2meter yagi antennas that weigh many kilograms, but for smaller types perhaps a 70cm yagi or some compact LPDA type.

Also when the antenna is in zenith (pointing straight up), the entire antenna is offset from the axle but only with a few inches. This means that the torque on the elevation worm gear is actually not that large.

But changing the axle (M8 threaded rod) to a longer one and putting a mount directly on the axle shouldnt be a problem either if you prefer that approach instead. That should also be preferred if you want to have two antennas - one on each side.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Tom wrote 02/03/2021 at 21:31 point

I can't see it struggling to drive something like this: 

http://www.schnizer.com/SOTAblog/equipment/lightweight-2m-yagi-sota/

  Are you sure? yes | no

Daniel Nikolajsen wrote 02/09/2021 at 08:02 point

No Tom, that yagi shouldnt be any problem, also in my video (and on all the boards I'll ship) the stepper drivers are only tuned to around half capacity to be sure not to overheat anything. With tweaking you could probably more than double the torque without any issues.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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